Q. What sort of spring care should I provide for my roses?
A. April is the appropriate month for some basic and necessary pruning. Pruning not only promotes improved flowering, it is essential for good overall plant health. Timing is important. Begin pruning when dormant roses begin to leaf out in the spring. It is best to wait until temperatures moderate and wide fluctuations are not predicted before undertaking rose pruning.
Basic pruning accomplishes several purposes for all rose classes — removal of damaged or dead wood, improved air circulation, improved flowering canes, and appearance. Before pruning, carefully examine the rose and identify any dead canes, which may be shriveled, dark brown, or have blackened tips. Use clean, sharpened pruners and make cuts at a 45-degree outward facing angle. Although not absolutely necessary, large cuts can be sealed with pruning compound or white glue to prevent cane drying or possible cane borer damage.
Remove dead or damaged canes at the base of the plant or below the point of damaged wood. Also, remove any crossing or weak canes that are smaller than the diameter of a pencil, leaving five to seven strong canes.
The class of rose will determine the extent of early spring pruning. Hybrid teas, floribunda, and grandiflora roses require fairly severe annual pruning to encourage better flowering and good plant health. Climbing and rambling roses require very little pruning besides removal of dead or damaged canes. However, flower production of climbers can be increased by cutting side shoots back to 6 inches. Shrub roses require very little pruning beyond the removal of dead or damaged canes, especially in the first years following planting.